Bugs of social networks!

As I’m surrounded by my like-minded people, who care about software freedom and privacy, I’m usually questioned about why I’m not on social networks and sometimes get suggestions about what social network may suit me.

I have to explain to them that my problem is not with a certain network, no matter how ethical they might be, but rather is with the essence of social networks. My problem with social networks is that they’re social and they require some bare minimum that I’m uncomfortable with.

Social networks always have a system of rating and assessment of posts and people. They always have like or upvote/downvote buttons, they show following/follower counts and they rely on people to interact with each other and remain active to be able to keep up with the network and the people.

These are the bare minimum requirements of a social network to become functional for people. People love these and if a network misses these so-called features, people consider it broken. A social network with no follower/following count, no like button, no stats, and no kind of rating people is, in my honest opinion, a true “social” network.

My favorite social network will not mind-play people to compete with each other to care about the following/follower rate or how many likes their posts get; but rather tries to connect people solely based on their posts and favorite communities. My favorite social network won’t tell you that your post is good enough (so it got enough likes) or you’re not likeable (because you get few followers), it’ll tell you how beneficial or important you are for your community based on the interactions you have with other members and real communications, not by likes your post gets.

A social network should be about connecting people and members of communities, not about trying to make people compete in pointless mind-games. My problem with social networks is that they’re addictive and they somehow force you to remain active day after day but my favorite social network helps you be active whenever you need or whenever it suits you.

My favorite social network won’t exclude any people, however it moderates the communities and people. The network, which surely should be decentralized, will try to prevent any harms done to you both mentally and physically. It will protect you from privacy-invaders and it will protect you from harassment.

Networks we currently have are trying to show you more and more. That’s one way to make you an addict. Algorithm or not, the way timelines work, even in Mastodon, it’s an endless scroll; specially if you have a lot of following. My favorite social network won’t give you an endless feed, rather it focuses on giving you a feed which makes you aware of how much you’re scrolling or turning pages. This way it ensures that you’re not spending countless hours reading what you won’t even remember 10 minutes later. Of course it’ll also show you funnies or daily stuff happening to your friends but it will also make sure you’re aware of your scrolling.

My favorite social network will give you possibility to limit your interactions. It will hide you from everybody other than what you choose. You will be able to choose whether you want to be public or keep hidden for outside circles. It won’t make you public or show your existence to anyone other than who you choose. You may choose to be discoverable or not, but whatever you choose it will respect it.

My favorite social network won’t be owned by any corporation or a billionaire, it won’t be forced to implement anything because a player in network or a donor requires it, it will only implement what benefits the members of the network.

Of course not all social networks have all of these issues but they all have at least some of these problems. Sadly, there’s no social network, to my knowledge, that fixes all of these problems. And social networks create communities and not all communities are toxic for me. Federated social networks managed to create a network of communities. For example, in Mastodon, we have Fosstodon that is a FOSS community and we have SDF which is an art community all connected together.

And not all members of social networks actually care about my issues or even care about mind-games social networks play, but most people, I believe, have this kind of mindset and it has become the nature of participation in social networks. We should change that.

Not a browser war but a Web war

Today’s invite to use Firefox and Firefox-based browsers is not about the browser war the Internet and Web community is typically involved in, but a war for open and free (as in freedom) Web. Since Google is trying to take away our freedom in Web browsing, it is now our duty to fight against Google and its plans.

One of Google’s power arms in this battle is Chrome. Through Chrome (and its base, Chromium), Google is enforcing new made-up standards that nobody wants except Google itself. Standards forced on users that are solely there to benefit Google and its partners. It’s now our duty to fight against them. It has always been our duty.

Any Chromium-based browser should be avoided. Doesn’t matter how the company behind your browser is removing Google’s DRM or how they advertise themselves to you, they should be avoided. I saw companies like Brave and Vivaldi protesting Google’s new war on Web but I think that’s ridiculous. They are some of the companies that are helping Google dominate in the Web browser war.

Using Chromium, which only results in Google winning the Web war, is a betrayal to the Internet and Web community and to all of us. There’s no excuse, there’s not “but”, there’s no good reason, it’s all false and hopeless justification of helping Google take away our precious Web.

Of course, I’m not saying Firefox and Mozilla are perfect but they’re now our only tools and power to fight Google. Our best shot is now Firefox and the cooperation of webmasters and sysadmins and an online civil disobedience against the Google’s efforts to impose its dictatorship on us.

Google launches another war at web

I was going to put an exclamation mark after the title but I realized there’s no need as I don’t get surprised by hearing Google is doing something bad to the web. As Google does, they’re launching another attack on free Internet, this time by “Web Environment Integrity”.

Put in simple words, Google is giving developers an API through which they can approve certain browser configurations while forbidding others from accessing a service or a page. This means, assuming one implements it, one can prevent you from accessing their web page or using a service because you used Firefox instead of their choice of web browser.

The intro explains that the goal is to make sure the browser hasn’t been modified or tampered with in any unapproved ways. Given that Google is behind this, unapproved ways surely means whatever hurts Google’s tracking and data-harvesting.

See how you can read this post using your favorite web browser or RSS reader? That’ll no longer be the case if this WEI thingy is put in work. Do you use tracker-blockers on your browser for safe and painless browsing? With WEI they can force you to use the browser the way they want and it can force you not to block ads.

Imagine being forced to use an specific browser of their choice (not yours but theirs) and being tracked not by cookies only but by the browser itself (just like how Google Chrome does) and worse than that, imagine you’re blocked from accessing a web site because you tried to block trackers using an extension.

Well of course they claim that’s not the goal but what’s stopping them? Google has a long history of abusing users and collecting personal information to sell or use for advertisers. Google is not a hero when it comes to keeping promises and they’re not trusted with people’s data.

In the “non-goals” section of the project, it says they don’t want to “interfere with browser functionality, including plugins and extensions.” That’s a promise to not killing ad-blockers, even though the project mentions better advertising support as some of its goals.

It’s dangerous. Google will do anything to collect more and more information from users and to fight those who resist it. It’s dangerous to privacy, security, freedom, and integrity of open web. It will cause a lot of problems for people which are far more bigger than whether we see or not see advertisements.

Think about political activists who are forced to browse web using Chrome instead of Tor and their data is collected by someone who sells them to tyrannical governments. Imagine a human rights campaign organizer being forced to give away personal data and the whole campaign being compromised because of it. The Internet and web were never completely safe but imagine the last traces of privacy being wiped for the profit of a company and some CEOs.

It’s against everything that we stand for but most importantly it’s against our freedom. It’s targeting our freedom of choice, freedom of computing, freedom for information, freedom for Internet and people using it, and freedom of us against tyranny. We should fight against it. It’ll destroy what’s left of our free web and Internet.

The urge of microblogging

The picture shows three people. One of them looking at a computer. The second person (middle one) asks the one behind the computer (one on the left) "what are you doing?" He replies "I'm writing" and the middle person asks "but you're not typing" and he replies "first I have to think about it". The middle person tells one on the right (the third person) "have you heard that?" and the third person replies "strange." On the bottom of the drawing it shows a title which reads "The age of microblogging".

I’m doing backups right now. I take a backup of everything I know I’ll need of my computers get lost or stolen or wiped and I encrypt them and store them on storage I have on different locations. I store copies on different storage to be able to recover my stuff if one of the copies gets destroyed or inaccessible.

While doing the backups (which includes a copy of this web site), I wanted to share with my friends that backing up stuff we care about is important and a must do. However, I’m not on any social network! That urge that I wanted to enter a URL on my browser and type to my friends that they must back up their stuff is amazing.

It may be an old habit of course, because I was microblogging for a long time, but it still fascinates me that I want to share small notes with my friends and communicate with them on a social network even after I have deleted all my accounts and decided I no longer have to use them.

I have considered signing up on a Mastodon instance a few times since I left and some people even told me that they miss me there and I should go back but I still have resisted it. I still believe I’ll be more healthy mentally and physically without social networks. My blog is enough for me (even though I even thought about deleting this blog as well).

Microblogging is so addictive. Whatever you do or whatever interesting happens to you will go online with microblogs and we do that unconsciously because we’re used to it. We see that kind of stuff and we do that so constantly that we don’t even realize what we’re doing no more. That scares me. The urge for microblogging, no matter how wonderful it is, scares me.

I’m still resisting this urge and I still tell myself that if there’s something so important that I have to tell other people, there’s my blog for it. I’m not gonna use my blog for microblogging or stuff like that. I’m gonna use it as a real blog like we used to do 20 years ago and I’m gonna keep it that way. All important stuff that need to be shared with others goes here.

For example, back up your important stuff people. Backups are important. I’m doing it right now and it takes about 10 minutes of my day. You can do it as well.

Move people to free software

Meta (formerly Facebook) has recently published a social networking app to compete with Twitter. It’s named Threads. Threads allows users to create text-based posts with up to 500 characters, share photos, and upload videos up to five minutes long. It looks similar to Twitter, with an interface that gives users the option to like, comment, repost, and share threads.

Users can choose to log in with their Instagram usernames or create a new account. Threads does not currently support ActivityPub, but there are plans to integrate the protocol later down the line.

The plan to support ActivityPub is good news. However, the app is proprietary and it will be privacy-violating. The app is not available in the Europe due to the EU’s strict privacy regulations. That’s how dangerous it is for people’s privacy. (Update: I came to realization that them supporting ActivityPub is not actually good news!)

But privacy issues aside, Meta is a huge proprietor. The news about supporting ActivityPub, which is the protocol behind the fediverse (most notably Mastodon), should not misguide us about the nonfree app. We should move people to free software and open networks. The solution to Twitter, and the opportunity we now have, is to guide people to use free programs and networks such those that build Mastodon.

People should be in control of their computing and that’ll be possible only by using free software. Using social networks such as Mastodon which are built upon the idea of openness and freedom will encourage people to learn more about the issues we’re worried about and will enhance the ability of activists in our movement to promote freedom more and more and help more people understand what we stand for.

We should help our developers and activists to teach more people about freedom now that we have the opportunity to move people from proprietary software to freedom.

Community versus Corporation

If you still haven’t heard about it, Reddit community and moderators are protesting because of the social network’s new policy and price change that threatens third-party and individual developers.

Reddit’s my favorite social network. Well it’s flawed and I don’t use it for many reasons such as privacy concerns, centralization, corporate control, etc. but the idea behind it and the communities and people who are active on it make it one of the greatest social networks of all time.

As much as I like Reddit, I believe the corporation behind it makes it fundamentally impossible to build a real community-powered and people-driven network. Reddit’s benefits and decisions over their policies are based and focused on development of the corporation and financial factors while the communities focus on their interests such as building relationships with one another and producing and sharing better material with each other.

To protest the recent API prices Reddit has set many moderators have made their subreddits private. In the first few hours of the protest it made huge inconveniences for the social network. Reddit was reported down partially and many people had trouble accessing it.

Some moderators participating in the protest received messages from the company saying to reopen their subreddits or be removed from their positions. Many large subreddits have reopened out of fear that their mod teams will be forcibly replaced. However, many continued the protest in another ways, most notably being focused on John Oliver and posting only about him. That is hilarious and surprisingly clever.

Reddit tries to be community-driven. Meaning that you don’t follow people there but you follow or join subreddits (or communities) of your interest. Then you can see the people (who have the same interest of yours) posting in those communities. The idea is amazing but the interference of the company in how communities are working and how the communities who build the network (Reddit social) and make it possible are acting make it impossible for the network to be truly a community.

A corporation taking advantage of people’s desire to be active in their favorite communities, that’s what Reddit is currently. I would offer a decentralized free software alternative for Reddit, called Lemmy, but I know that may not suite many people and it certainly won’t be a good answer to all the work that has been done over the years by the amazing communities of Reddit, but that may be a good start.

We need free and open passwordless login

It’s been a while since Google introduced its passkey login system which users won’t need to set and remember passwords in order to log in to their accounts. Now, Google is giving its users option to switch to passkey-only login for their accounts.

It simply works like this on your mobile phone (which needs biometrics implemented): type your username, pick a passkey, scan your finger/face. I’m not gonna lie, this is absolutely awesome. It’s a wonderful feature which makes logging in and signing up pretty easy and not a pain in the ass.

However, being forced to use biometrics to be able to use this feature is not what many people such as myself would like. I would like to be able to set a pattern to log in or type a pin or password on my mobile phone. I don’t like to share or store my biometric data (such as fingerprints and/or face scan) with my mobile phone no matter how safe or privacy-promising they are.

Also, this system is built using proprietary software. The passkey is a certificate that gets stored on your device. Your device shares a signature (not the certificate) with the service you’re signing into to prove you have access to the certificate. But they’re issuing you the cert through their proprietary software.

1Password’s passkey page also has a video saying that passkeys weren’t open enough. The video says, “Today’s solutions don’t deliver on that promise of openness and interoperability. If you create a password on your iPhone or Android device today, it’s pretty much trapped. It’s not easy to share, move it to another platform or sync with your preferred password manager. We can do better. And that’s why we’re excited to show you what the future could look like, if passwordless technology were more open.”

The whole passkey system is not something new though. The system works the way many public/private key systems, such as GPG/PGP, work. And our community, which is free and open, can build something like that. I would really like it if I could sign up on services giving them my public PGP key and when I want to sign in, I just sign a random message given to me to prove my identity.

Wouldn’t that be amazing? What I have in mind is simple. When I face a registration form, instead of setting a password or email address, i would like to paste my PGP public key in the form. Then system saves or remembers the public key and whenever I want to sign in, it generates a random message for me to sign. Then I sign the message using the private key which I have (and only me has access to it) and the system checks if the message is signed by the correct key and if it checks out, it logs me in.

Now I know it may sound kind of hard to do or more frustrating than simply typing your password or clicking on your password manager button for it to insert it for you but wouldn’t that be a good signing and logging system to use? Isn’t that more private than what we already have? And it can be synced with whatever device we have or want. We just need to sync our secret keys using infinite libre tools we already have.

And the amazing part is that it can be built using free software only. No proprietary program is needed to implement this and even password managers can implement and use it and it won’t be limited to any kind of operating system or computer.

What I’m proposing may not be perfect or even easy for many users but I’m sure it can be improved and it’ll work way better for everyone and it won’t be limited to big tech to decide who and how people can use it. If you have any idea or suggestion about this please inform me or, better, publish a blog or a social network post and send me the link so we can discuss it.

And if there’s a legal thing behind using ideas or anything, I have not read or heard a similar idea so if you though or have wrote about this before I did, I’m sorry. If you want to build a system based on my idea, you won’t need any permission so just go ahead. Although I would be happy if you inform me so I know somebody is working on something like this.

No social network presence!

I’ve recently deleted my Mastodon account. Mastodon was my only social network and I was using it since 2016 since it was first started. Mastodon, being a decentralized social network, was not my first presence on social networks. I remember when I was on MySpace, FriendFeed, Vine, Mastodon, Facebook, and Twitter. Sadly some of them were build on proprietary software and are data-harvesting corporations. I regret my decision to join them.

Happily, few years ago I got interested in online privacy and studied it and were introduced to the philosophy of software freedom so I started a redemption journey to only be active on human-respecting networks and services. Until like 2016 which I first joined the Free Software Foundation as an associate member and deleted every one of my social network accounts and joined Mastodon for the first time.

Until now it was my only social network being active. Now that I deleted it, I now am absent from every social network. This has been fun. I have deleted my Mastodon account before and took a distance from social networking and I’m doing it again. I hope I don’t join any of them again since they are very tempting.

The no-social-network thing is good for my mental health I believe. I spend less time on my computers and I probably am more productive and focused on real life and real issues. I also find more time and passion to write on my blog rather than writing short notes. It’s a good thing I suppose.

I also love to brag about having no social network at all. People find that interesting that I feel no need or I’m not tempted to socialize using online networks.

Anyway, I’m not on any social network for now and I, currently, hope I don’t get back. At least for any time soon.